Arcane Roots have turned yet another corner. And they’ve done it with both hands on the wheel and the accelerator through the floorboard. Their new album Melancholia Hymns blends serene synth with their own defibrillating riffs in scintillating orchestration that spans, in my mind, at least three decades of influence: 80’s synth, 90’s grunge, and 00’s progressive and post-rock. As the title suggests, this perhaps borders on emo lyrically—but it’s the music that keeps you flying above all the shit and muck being sung about. From the “Solemn” dirge of slogging, soulful grunge — with its soaring vocal harmonies, and the solid melodic choices that sew each song to the other with deft, aural authority — to the leading single release, “Curtains”, which slowly builds from its soothing electronics and violins into their signature rhythmic cacophony: that crescendo into the bending crunch between two heavy-as-hell chords. Hynms doesn’t encourage skipping around — it encourages a great deal of repeat. The album art brings to mind what would happen if Led Zeppelin had gotten to play with friggin lasers, and is clearly the concept behind the “Curtains” music vid.
Once you reach track 4, you’ll most likely need to pick your jaw up “Off the Floor” as single-note riffs (of which Brent Hinds would be proud) stitch together large swaths of sincerest, bombastic beauty. This song also marks more of a return to their roots, but is simultaneously so far beyond. Speaking of noteworthy influences rearing their beautiful heads, Peter Gabriel would be the first person to champion the song “Indigo” as it rides the power of Andrew Groves’ vocals and dub-step cues, adding vibrant color from a palate of predecessors that are undeniably all of our favorites. The power of Groves’ pure vocal range shines, within the undulations of a Bjorkian glottal groove, to open a song that will “Matter” to those that hear it well beyond the publication of this review — beyond the release of their next album if you have any kind of ear for the worms that writhe in encephalon for years. This album presents somewhat of a crossroads for fans of their previous work, which, with each album, has shown signs of their progression to this point.
The release preceding this one, the 2015 EP Heaven and Earth, brought polish and stronger songwriting to the forefront of their energetic style, all in a decidedly post-whatever-rock (coined it) vernacular. As they’re primarily focused on the EU and England with their upcoming tour dates in support of Hymns, it may be 18 months or more before we see them stateside—and even then in limited locales. Bands like these guys and, say, Agent Fresco, just have very little pub over here. But better to come across such great music organically, by word of mouth or happy accident, and truly own it in your heart—where all this great new music from “Half the World” away belongs. This final track raises the bar on exit music, simply symphonic (at one point Groves even sings the word ‘symphony,’ so I know I’m right with this description) and hooky enough to be working through the night on steady repeat.